Is The Paradox of Choice Derailing Your Forever Home Search?

Buying or Building

As a buyer do you find yourself “wanting to see everything” that meets your criteria, or wanting to see “just one more” option before making the choice of your forever home?

You may truly believe that having a wide selection of homes to choose from is the only way to find one you love.

Guess what? It’s a proven fact that having too many choices only increases your chance of making the wrong choice!

One of my favorite books is “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. You can apply the principles of this book to any area of your life where you are having a hard time making a decision. However, for today’s lesson we’ll apply it to the home-buying process once we explain the “paradox of choice.”

Choice Overload

Research has shown that having too many choices from selecting jam to choosing a mutual fund package, or from finding a mate to picking a home – can overwhelm and stress people. They become so confused and reach a point where they feel paralyzed with indecision.

These buyers also experience an increased feeling of regret or dissatisfaction once a decision is made. Many can’t get past the thought that one of the other choices would have been better.

Has that ever been you?

Most likely you face an insane number of choices for all sorts of products, whether you’re at the grocery store, shopping online, or at the car lot. We’re talking about both the big and small purchases in your life!

An entire aisle of cereal is the norm now. At one time shopping for jeans meant Levi’s, and that was pretty much it. How long does it take you to find that perfect pair now? Or decide how much to spend?

When there are so many options to choose from, it’s easy to end up in a situation where doing nothing becomes the “default choice.” We’ve all walked out of a store empty handed when this happens. Or decided to delay making a purchase till “another time.”

Why More Is Actually Less

When it comes to house hunting, you do want to have a healthy inventory of listings to view. However, thinking “seeing more is better” can actually sidetrack your forever home search.

More choice can cause confusion, second guessing, and just being overwhelmed.

For example, if you spend the day (and weeks) looking at so many homes, you can start feeling confused about the features of each one. Your mind will start going in circles trying to distinguish each home.

Plus it’s just harder to narrow down your choices and start to eliminate homes when you have viewed way too many.

Make Choosing Less Stressful

There are several strategies to make your search successful and satisfying from beginning to end. This means you’ll need to learn how to narrow down your choices.

Sometimes the market itself will limit your choices, but you’ll still need to make a decision at some point. Here’s how to do it:

Spend time researching BEFORE you’re ready to buy. Get educated about your local market in terms of price, location and features. Visit open houses, go online, and talk to trusted and reliable friends about how they made their home-buying decision. This way you know what it will take to get your forever home, and you’ll be more confident when you do become a serious buyer with an agent. Do your best to keep this time productive and perhaps even with a deadline, but don’t feel rushed or stressed. That way you can move on to becoming a ready buyer, or you’ll still be “looking” two years down the road.

Figure out your needs, wants, and deal breakers. I say this over and over again but it’s SO important to make a well-thought-out list and stick to it. Focus your time and energy on what matters to you. We recommend starting with what lifestyle you want to live and making your list from there.

Stick with your budget and price range. You’ll increase your doubt, confusion, and dissatisfaction if you start to see homes outside your price range—lower or higher. You’re just adding more choices (and not good ones for you!). You should have already done your research so this action is an unnecessary waste of energy and time once you’re a serious buyer.

Compare apples to apples. It’s not a good idea to compare homes that are in two very different locations – it will only lead to “analysis paralysis”! For example, a home in the suburbs is most likely going to be bigger and possibly newer than a similar priced home in the most desirable location in a more urban area.

To avoid this from happening, you first need to narrow your location by deciding what lifestyle you want. However, if you decide to be open to other locations, compare similar homes within the specific location.

Remember having “enough choices” doesn’t mean a large number. Too many choices can be daunting, so you want to aim for “enough” choices. This way you’ll be confident in your decision and satisfied that you’re not shortchanging yourself with too few choices. Work with your agent so that you view “enough” homes that meet your list’s criteria.

Keep eliminating homes and move on. When you view a home, it’s either a “yes” or “no” and then on to the next one. Eliminate as you go along so you can keep your selection to two to three homes (just like HGTV’s “House Hunters”). Don’t “keep it in the running” just in case! You’ll end up with too many “maybe’s” to whittle down. Another strategy is to ask yourself what home you like better—the one you are in right now or the ones you just saw. Then pick your favorite of the day.

Don’t worry you’re missing out. Your agent is there to help pare down the number of homes to view and keep you focused. Your agent can explain why certain homes weren’t on the list to show you – i.e. they don’t match your list, are out of your price range, or have something that you consider a deal breaker.

Avoid becoming an MLS junkie. It’s hard in today’s market to not search the internet to see what’s been newly listed. Just remember to keep it in check and limit the time you spend trying to catch every new listing. You can tell your agent if you’ve seen something that’s a match but don’t become obsessed or anxious about every new listing and second-guess too much.

Consider custom. I do want you to find a home you love. Sometimes that home doesn’t exist, or is outside your price range or ideal location. When you’ve looked at all the other options, it may be time to look at building a home that is built to your specifications. Just keep in mind that the custom build process is 12-24 months, so your forever home may be farther in the future than you’re expecting.

Let me know if you have any questions about choosing a home and if you’re think you’re afraid you’ll experience choice overload. I definitely recommend reading The Paradox of Choice for further insight.

Hi, there!

I'm Leila Hays, and I'm on a mission to help you buy and sell at the same time without paying two mortgages or moving twice. If you're planning to make a move in the next year, it's not too early to plan. Click the link below to get started.



9303 New Trails Dr. Ste. 165
The Woodlands, TX 77381

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Hi, there!

I'm Leila Hays, and I'm on a mission to help you buy and sell at the same time without paying two mortgages or moving twice. If you're planning to make a move in the next year, it's not too early to plan. Click the link below to get started.

schedule your free consultation

what you need to know about buying or building

Homes you might love (My listings)

what you need to know about owning or selling

All Articles